Making an Old Apartment New

It’s pretty much official that my best friend, Kira, is moving to Chicago, which means that Kris and I will be most likely packing up our little apartment, and moving back into the apartment I shared with Kira.  It’s bigger, and packs a lot of character, so it’s pretty much a no brainer.  Putting aside the fact that I’ll miss her so much, I really am looking forward to living there again.  
It gets great light all day with a east/west exposure (our current apartment is north/south facing), has tall ceilings  an a open layout.  We’ll have space for an office AND dining room (separately), a deck for grilling, a backyard, and a much larger kitchen.
View of the bay from Pac Heights, San Francisco: Source
Obviously it has it’s downsides – a terrible shower, a teeny tiny oven that doesn’t fit a standard cookie sheet, and a leaky roof – but these are all things we can work around.  Before Kris and I moved in together, I lived with Kira there for just over two years, which means this place has been inhabited without updates for nearly 4 years.  While it’s in good shape, things start looking a little sad over time, so we’ll definitely need to make some improvements.
While I don’t want to put any serious money into renovations (all appliances will stay as is) I don’t mind spending a little money (and a lot of elbow grease) to spruce things up.  
One of the rooms that needs some serious love is the kitchen.  I’ve been keeping a running mental list of what I’d like to update, and while there is a multitude of sins that paint can cover up, I’m looking forward to getting a little creative.  I also want to be extremely conscious of the fact that whatever we do has to be seen by the landlord as an “improvement” so no jarring changes that they wouldn’t want to keep for a future tenant.
The kitchen cabinets are nothing to write home about, and they could use some serious love – I’m thinking they’d benefit a great deal from being sanded down, and re-painted a soft grey…
Here are a few photo’s I’m using for inspiration…
I love the look of the brass pulls in most of these photos, but right now, the cabinets and drawers have cheap silver pulls.  Hardware adds up really fast, and with possibly 15-20 pulls, new cabinet hardware could get really pricey.  I may just leave them as is, but there is also the option of using spray paint on them, and even replacing a few pulls on a few of the drawers / cabinets are are most focal.
Just some food for thought…
Connected to the kitchen is a large breakfast room – I think we’ll use this as an office, but as it’s essentially part of the kitchen, I want it to have a cohesive look and feel.  We painted two of the walls a muted sage green a few years back, but I’m thinking it’s time for that to go, and switch back to something lighter and brighter since this room has tons of windows.
I’ve actually been loving the look of a striped focal wall, and something like this could be kind of cool…
Since the cabinets don’t meet the ceiling, and I’m thinking of a medium grey on the cabinets, perhaps a very pale grey would look nice bringing the cabinets to the ceiling… or should we do the stripes on the wall the same color as the cabinets…
More food for thought…
I also really love the casual, fun vibe of a chalkboard wall.  On the wall opposite the sink, stove, and cabinets, I’d love to paint a large chalkboard directly on the wall, and possibly frame it like one of these…

Do they make magnetic chalkboard paint?  It could be kind of fun if it were, so we could use this as a sort of command center.
Anyways, that was sort of rambling post, but sometimes it helps to get ideas down on paper.
Opinions?  Any other simple, but cool things you’ve seen in kitchens lately I should be thinking about??

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